From the diaspora: Panhandlers differ, Out damned tooth . . .

From my observation post outside Starbucks: A “craft ice cream” truck tools down Bryn Mawr, 9 or so on a Tuesday morning.

We already have craft beer. What else? I’ll tell you what else, craft writing, as by Yours Truly and his ilk. Not crafty, though the temptation is always there.

Across the street, opposite corner, a young fellow in red shirt and wearing white do-rag is panhandling more aggressively — here in historic Edgewater — than I see on Clark Street a half mile west. He’s able-bodied, able enough to lean toward, though not into, passersby.

I gave him my usual buck a half hour ago, before planting myself here with iced coffee on an absolutely halcyon day, glorious in the low 70s, blessed with now a cool breeze, now a warming one, the Big Lake mere blocks away.

He took the buck blank-faced, in contrast with his Clark Street counterparts, whose responses are human enough — saying thanks sometimes, sometimes asking for more, in one instance asking me what I’m reading, for cryin’ out loud, taking the book of poems and reading from it aloud with a smile. Full of chatter when we met later on the Broadway bus.

For another I bought breafkast “britos” (burritos) at McDonald’s. Another time, barred by the manager apparently for border-line antisocial behavior, he asked me to get them for him, handing over two singles. Got life story from him in a series of encounters.

Another gave me a story on our first meeting: mother died day before, wife and three children hungry, he won’t get paid until Friday. My dollar led to request for more which proved unavailing.

Back to my post outside Starbucks, NE corner Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. Weekday, people on the run, in a hurry, except for the likes of me and a few other oldies with time to kill with over coffee, mine iced, sipped with a straw in violation of post-extraction rules.

Extraction was previous day, of a rear tooth long past its prime, like the mouth and entire body of its home for 80-plus annos.

And good riddance. It was not only “fractured,” as the dentist noted helpfully in the midst of extracting it, but infected, being (a) resting on a bone that is shrinking, as is the owner, down inches from his never exalted height physical and socio-economic. (If the tooth owner is shrinking, so is the bone that gives a tooth firm ground.)

And (b) located in area not easily reached by brush and floss and therefore vulnerable. It was doomed and had to go, which if it sounds like the plight of man on earth, so be it. Hang on and look to the heavenly father.

Extractor of this miserable excuse for a tooth deserves noting. She is the beautiful Dr. N., intelligent, impeccably professional, skilled, a 30-something Asian-American woman whom I decided to be of Chinese extraction, if I may use word in this context.

She is of coffee-with-cream complexion, alert, self-possessed, capable. If a tooth is to be extracted, how better than by the likes of her? (Two days later, patient is doing fine.)

More later from the Oak Park diaspora, North Side chapter . . .

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